In 2013, Katie Boué bought a bright yellow van and hit the road. The rest, you could say, is history. Katie fell in love with the American West and decided to make Salt Lake City, UT her home base where she continues to advocate for public lands and the outdoor recreation economy. On her website, The Morning Fresh, Katie talks about climbing, life on the road, and of course, adventuring.
If you follow her on Instagram, you know all about her recently adopted pup, Spaghetti (or Sketti, for short), the effect of CBD oil on physical and mental health, and the importance of LNT on all your desert or mountain adventures. She actively protests land mismanagement and travels to DC to take part in events like Climb the Hill.
With all she’s doing to promote and protect public lands (specifically standing alongside Native American allies, since the land was originally Native owned), she’s humble first and foremost.
Meet Katie Boué: Public Lands Activist, Writer at The Morning Fresh
We caught up with Katie of The Morning Fresh to dig a little deeper into her lifestyle. Turns out, she’s as cool as she looks on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
I used to live in a big yellow van. His name was Southern Comfort and we built a little home inside. I stained some cheap wood, trimmed him some curtains, added a bookshelf, and he was mine. We traveled all over the country together for a year, climbing and navigating dirt roads and towing a bicycle that I never even rode. I showed this photo of him during my talk this weekend at @nomanslandfilmfestival and last night, I SAW HIM in the parking lot of a bike shop in SLC. It made me pretty happy–he has a hang board now.
The Dyrt: Can you tell us a little more about how your passion for public lands progressed?
Katie Boué: Public lands have always been a big part of my life, whether consciously or not. I started becoming aware of the concept of public lands and the outdoors in college when I started climbing at Tallahassee Rock Gym, but it didn’t solidify as a definitive force in my life until I started working at the Outdoor Industry Association. I took a part-time job running their then-barely-existing social media platforms, turned it into a full-time job, and through my work at OIA found the world of outdoor recreation policy. Over the last four years, it became what I live for.When people think “I want to do that,” it isn’t a stroke for my ego, it’s a reminder to be a role model and keep doing good. - @katieboue Click To Tweet
You’ve traveled in a van across the country. Do you feel like the vanlife movement is affecting our outdoor spaces? If so, how? If not, why?
My partner and I just got a new van, so I have been reckoning with what it means to be rejoining the #vanlife, ha! I think the growth of the vanlife movement is a space where we need to accept and embrace what’s happening, and do something good with it.
Yes, dispersed campsites are getting more crowded. Yes, it’s totally a little satisfying to roll your eyes at vanlifers. But also, every single one of those vanlife people has the potential to become an active outdoor advocate. Van-livers need a place to park. What if parks started offering free camping in exchange for conservation and trail work? There’s opportunity here.
People, especially like us at The Dyrt, see your Instagram profile and think: “I want to be / do that.” How do you manage that pressure?
View this post on Instagram
*insert caption about mountain season, tattoos-finally-out season, tank tops + shorts season, the joys of summit registries, what a great idea it is to bring spaghetti as a trail snack, how badly I want my future dog named Spaghetti, and what a huge bruise I got on my toosh after eating it 50 feet from the car on the way down from Mt Olympus* Because, ain’t nobody got time for typing out proper captions these days. There’s too much living and doing to be done. Photo: @brodyleven _______________________________________ #outdoorist #optoutside #forceofnature #livewylder #youtah #visitutah #loldontthobecauseyallaredestroyingthesanctityofmybeloveddesertspaces
I try not to let myself even think thoughts like “people see my Instagram and want to be like me.” It’s a bizarre thing to put your life on the internet, and I think the key to doing it without losing your mind is a constant flow of humility.
I am not that cool, I just happened to be good at sharing my life on social media. There are so many folks out there climbing bigger mountains, doing more on-the-ground work for public lands, making more significant impacts than I am–and I try to keep my self-pressure focused on that. When people think “I want to do that,” it isn’t a stroke for my ego, it’s a reminder to be a role model and keep doing good.
What do you say to people who want your lifestyle?
View this post on Instagram
We create the deepest connections to the land, to ourselves, to each other—when we choose to disconnect. I spend a lot of time in the digital space. Being online is my job. And I love it—the community, the access to information, the conversations, the instant connectivity. But seeking balance through screen-free time is just as important to my work as an outdoor advocate as the endless hours I spend pushing my glasses up my nose while staring at my laptop. This leather notebook is part of my soul. It’s a brick & mortar reminder of what’s r-e-a-l. My notebook grounds me, reminds me to slow down, to relish in the ‘no service’ zone, to reflect on the quiet beauty of sitting in the back of my car overlooking a velvety desert sunrise. So, today, I invite you to close your laptop, leave your phone behind, just for a few minutes. Take to pen and paper, take your shoes off and step into the snow or dirt. Go hang out with your plants, practice your crappy doodling skills, go take a nap in the sun patch by your window. Instagram will still be here when you return. Relish in a little disconnection, you’ll return more connected than ever. Photo: @sav.cummins
Get after it! Grab a journal, go sit outside somewhere, and write down what you want in life. Make a plan for it. Put that plan in motion. Through a mix of privilege, hard work, luck, blind ambition, and being exceptionally talented at faking-it-til-you-make-it, I came into this lifestyle–which is really just a nice way of saying “my messy, wonderful, joyous little life I somehow pushed into existence.”
You’ve mentioned dealing with anxiety in your Instagram stories and photos. As someone who lives with anxiety, I know how hard it can be to sustain an active and pro-active lifestyle. What does a typical day look like for you when you’re facing anxiety head-on?
First of all, I love that our outdoor adventure community is starting to talk about mental health so regularly! Sometimes, my icky anxiety day is me dealing with those chest fluttering, belly aching blues by doing as much as I can to ‘accomplish something’ that day before resigning to just laying low.
Other days, it’s a total wreck from sunrise to sunset with me just trying to stay afloat. There’s a lot of time spent hiding under a blanket on my couch just trying to continue to exist. I have been testing out hemp CBD treatments, which have significantly helped me deal with anxiety day-to-day.
What advice would you give to other awesome humans who face similar struggles?
Try breathing exercises and hemp CBD. Both changed my life. That, and starting to go to yoga regularly.
View this post on Instagram
I am a believer in plant-based 🌱 medicine. And judging by the way y’all nearly crashed my blog yesterday when I launched my guide to hemp CBD, you are too. If you haven’t yet, head to the link in my bio to learn more about the plant-based medicine you’ve been seeing pop up everywhere from your local farmers market to healthy pet stores. I use hemp CBD to treat anxiety, migraines, and knee pain—but the range of uses you all shared with me blew me away. You shared stories of using it for depression, insomnia, dementia, brain cancer, menstrual pain, anxious pets, training recovery, and so much more. Hemp CBD is NOT marijuana. It doesn’t “get you high” and there’s nothin’ scary about it besides the stigma it carries due to hemp being a plant in the cannabis family. I want to dismantle that stigma, educate ignorant folks, and empower people to find healing and health through plant-based medicine. If you use CBD, leave a comment sharing your experience—you could help someone on the fence open up their mind. 💛🌱 ________________________________________(all the brands I tested for this guide are tagged in the photo, check ‘em out!) #CBD #hempCBD #plantbasedmedicine #cbdoil #hempoil #alpenorganics #cannabisculture
If your anxiety is really rearing its ugliness, remember that it’s okay to spend the entire day in bed drinking La Croix and watching Grace & Frankie. You’re still great and worthy, and tomorrow is another day to try again.
How do you balance eschewing geo-tagging with inspiring more people to get outside?
Geo-tagging is such a complicated topic, and I’m looking forward to continuing more conversations about it. I think that cutting back or eliminating the use of geo-tagging is having a loud moment, but that ultimately it will just become a thing we do (or rather, don’t). I can still spread a loud and proud message of “get out there and explore your public lands!” without specifically tagging certain sensitive locations. Right now, we’re making a big deal about stopping geo-tags, so it’s more in your face. Once the hubbub dies down and we shift away from using geo-tags as much, I don’t think it’ll feel quite so aggressive. It’ll still be beautiful photos of public lands and the outdoors, it just won’t have a pinpointed map attached anymore.
In place of geo-tags, I’d like to see outdoor education on LNT and stewardship become the new cool thing to attach to our public lands images.Grab a journal, go sit outside somewhere, and write down what you want in life. Make a plan for it. Put that plan in motion. Click To Tweet
As a social media professional, you have to be conscious of your brand on platforms like Instagram. Do you think there’s a gap between your real-life personality and the personal brand you present on social media? Or do you feel free to completely be yourself on Instagram?
I try to keep it as real as possible on social media. Authenticity is important for building your brand, but also for not perpetuating glamorized ideas of humans. I don’t want to send a fake message of perfection to my audience–especially those above mentioned people who “want to be like me.” If I’m going to be a role model, I want people to look up to a real, messy, flawed person.
I do curse significantly more in real life than on social media, though. It’s a naughty Miami habit.
Florida to the Rocky Mountain West is quite the shift in lifestyle. How did you adjust? Will you ever go back?
I will never, ever live in Florida ever again. I love to go home, I love to visit and explore my old state–but once you get a taste of the mountains, there’s no turning back.
View this post on Instagram
I’ve been struggling with identity for years, particularly in the outdoor industry. We all struggle with identity, no matter who you are. For me, the crux is this: I am a queer, Latina woman who totally presents as, just, white. I am wildly privileged, and it would be harmful for me to take up space identifying as a person of color, but I am cornered in my whiteness (which I recognize is a messed up gift that has made it all easy for me). My father is an immigrant, a refuge from Cuba. My mother is half Venezuelan. The joke has always been that I'm the mailman's daughter. Most of my family doesn’t speak English as their first language. I prefer arroz con frijoles for breakfast. Despite my gushing adoration for my boyfriend, I am queer–and it’s an important part of myself to me. For nearly a decade, I put the kind of energy I now put in outdoor issues into gay rights. My friends now call me a "hasbian" which is both hilarious and sad. I am so proud of being LGBTQ and Latina, but my ability to own and identify as such feels like such a gray area, especially as I try to show up an advocate for social issues. To loudly own who I am feels like it’s harmful to the cause. It’s all so gray and uncomfortable and I’m unsure there’s a real answer here, but it’s distracting me from my work today so I’m here sharing it to get it off my chest. How do I show up? How can I own my identity without taking up space from fellow latinas and queers who have much heavier burdens to carry than I do? How do I say “hey, I’m part of this community and I want to help” without being met with “get out of here, white girl”? Should I be louder about who I am? Because it’s true, my light-skinned appearance changes my entire life experience, and makes it easier. I could never deny that. But at the same time, I want to be Katie Boué, the Cuban-American, queer outdoor advocate. I am that woman, that's me. If you have thoughts, constructive criticism, anything that’s productive, I’d love to hear it. And if you want to just chuck a chancleta at my head and tell me to callate mi boca, that's okay too. If this is nothing but harmful bs, feel free to call me out on it. I hope it's not though.
What are some principles you live by when recreating and camping on public land?
- Tread as dang lightly as you can.
- Always pick up one piece of trash, every time you go outside.
- Also every time you go outside: take a minute to close your eyes and really feel the earth around you, and be grateful as hell.
- If you ask yourself “am I doing something bad/wrong/harmful?” the answer is probably leaning towards yes, so just don’t do it.
- Produce peels are still litter.
- Something I learned from my dear friend Len Necefer: If you take something from nature, give something back to it.
Our readers are avid campers, some spending 100+ nights outside every year. What are some small ways they can give back to the campgrounds, BLM land, and Forest Service roads they often inhabit?
One of the easiest things you can do to give back is to treat it like your home. Pick up trash around your yard. Invite your neighbors to do the same. Live by the above-mentioned principles. And sign up for a trail day every once in a while! Pay your rent by serving your public lands.Public lands are for the people, and need to be protected. And most importantly: public land is Native land. Click To Tweet
Do you ever get exhausted with social media?
Always. It’s my job and my livelihood, but it also burns folks out so fast, and I’m weary of that. I banned my iPhone from my bedroom to remove one layer of daily interaction with it, and it’s made me so much happier. I also just moved all my social apps to a folder on the second home page of my iPhone. I want to get more intentional and effective with the time I spend on social media. It’s an empowering, educational, incredible tool, but it can also be toxic to the individual.
How many hours a day do you spend on social platforms for work and pleasure?
You spend a lot of time advocating for Utah and public land across the country in DC and at home. Do you think there’s anything cut-and-dry about public land? How complicated is the debate over how to use public spaces?
The debate over how to use public spaces is c-o-m-p-l-i-c-a-t-e-d and on some of these issues, I don’t see a definitive solution in sight. But one thing remains steadfast: public lands are for the people, and need to be protected. And most importantly: public land is Native land.If you ask yourself “am I doing something bad/wrong/harmful?” the answer is probably leaning towards yes, so just don’t do it. Click To Tweet
If you could lay out a roadmap for becoming more knowledgeable in the public land debate, what would that look like? What would the reading/newsletter list include?
The first assignment would be to get out on public lands. To know and love and experience these places is to develop a true sense of why it’s so important to get involved. Next, you need to discover how to get involved locally. We all have public lands in our own backyards that need protecting. Seek out local non-profits and environmental groups, and start devouring information.
A few musts on my reading list:
- Everything Outdoor Alliance posts on their blog. OA’s blog is timely, relevant, resourceful, and breaks down the latest public lands issues in a digestible way.
- Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks: A powerful, uncomfortable, must-read book that explains the history of colonization of public lands. In today’s public land conversations, an informed perspective on Indigenous history is mandatory.
- Listen to Episode 71 of the She-Explores podcast about outdoor advocacy, then listen to my She-Explores interview about finding your voice to speak for public land.
You can follow Katie from The Hill to the hills (and the mountains) on her Instagram account, @KatieBoue and on her website, The Morning Fresh.